Djokovic, Murray coast through in Beijing tennis
Beijing: Top seed Novak Djokovic and his main rival Andy Murray breezed into the second round of the China Open on Tuesday, restoring some order to a draw riddled with upsets, as Maria Sharapova was sent packing.
Djokovic, the world number two and the defending champion in Beijing, showed little mercy to Chinese wild card entrant Gong Mao-Xin, wrapping up a 6-1, 6-3 win in just over an hour at the Olympic Green Tennis Centre.
The 23-year-old Serb pummelled local favourite Gong -- appearing in only the second ATP tournament of his career -- from the backcourt and broke his serve four times.
"It feels good to be back at a court where I`ve had a lot of success in the last couple of years," said Djokovic, who won bronze at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 before taking the China Open title last year.
"I`m hoping that I can raise the level in the next match."
Murray, returning to action for the first time since a disappointing third-round defeat at the US Open, slammed 10 aces past French qualifier Paul-Henri Mathieu in an easy 6-2, 6-3 victory.
The 23-year-old Scot, who is second seed, said he was happy with his performance but acknowledged his fitness and health were still not perfect.
"It was a good first round. I started the match good and didn`t really give him any opportunities," Murray, the world number four, told reporters.
"I`ve been quite ill the last week. I started feeling better today, but I haven`t practised that much on the court... I`m a little bit stiff and sore."
In other men`s first-round action, Sweden`s Robin Soderling came from behind to win in three sets over Spain`s Tommy Robredo, and Russia`s Nikolay Davydenko advanced easily -- meaning the top four seeds are still going strong.
But the next three seeds -- Tomas Berdych, Fernando Verdasco and Mikhail Youzhny -- have crashed out of the tournament, denting their chances of qualifying for the season-ending ATP championship in London.
On the women`s side of the joint WTA/ATP event, Sharapova -- the Russian 12th seed and a three-time Grand Slam winner -- fell to countrywoman Elena Vesnina in the second round, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2.
Sharapova, who had struggled to win her first match, fell behind early in the first set and never recovered, clawing her way into a tiebreak only to lose it rather meekly. In the second set, she offered little opposition.
"She was really aggressive, she hit the ball really deep today and really consistently, as well. That kind of kept me on the defence, and I was never really able to step in and do things that I do well," Sharapova said.
Nine of the 16 seeds in the WTA event have now been eliminated, after eighth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus was forced to retire from her match due to a left thigh strain.
Seventh seed Elena Dementieva survived a three-set battle with 40-year-old Japanese veteran Kimiko Date Krumm to advance, while Italy`s Francesca Schiavone, the fifth seed, and China`s Li Na won easily.
Top seed Caroline Wozniacki was to begin her title campaign on Wednesday against Italy`s Sara Errani. The Dane needs just two wins in Beijing to secure the world number one ranking when a new list is issued next week.
Both the WTA and ATP are hoping to use the 6.6-million-dollar China Open to make inroads in the vast Asian country, which they see as a strategic marketplace.